The Associated Press
HOUSTON — Thousands of fans left Minute Maid Park with replica No. 27 Jose Altuve jerseys from a giveaway on Sunday.
The Houston Astros star didn’t make it off the field with his.
Altuve hit a three-run homer to cap a startling six-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning, getting his shirt yanked off in a frenzied celebration and lifting the Astros over the New York Yankees 8-7.
“It was a miracle,” manager Dusty Baker said.
The Astros had been shut out by the Yankees the previous two games, highlighted by ace Gerrit Cole’s three-hitter in a 4-0 win on Saturday night.
But in a series where the teams took turns trolling each other after lingering ill will over the years — including Yankees star Aaron Judge seeming to mock Altuve — the Astros and their dynamic second baseman had the final say.
“It was pretty amazing how Altuve did it again,” catcher Martin Maldonado said. “He’s a guy with a big heart and is the face of this team. He got to the plate we knew something big was going to happen.”
Big league teams are 493-2 this season with a lead of at least four runs going to the ninth — the Yankees wasted an 8-4 advatage in an 11-8 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels on June 30, making this the first season the Yankees twice lost games when leading by four runs entering the ninth.
New York led 7-2 after a three-run homer by Gary Sanchez in the eighth inning and was poised for a sweep before the Astros broke loose and dealt the Yankees another aching last-inning loss.
“It’s the ultimate gut punch,” manager Aaron Boone said. “You’ve got a five-run lead in the ninth against a great team with a chance to earn the sweep and they come back to win. We’ve got some things to get better at and make sure all hands are where they need to be.”
It was the first time the Astros won after trailing by five or more runs in the ninth inning since also being down 7-2 before rallying to beat the Montreal Expos 9-8 on July 25, 1980, according to information provided by the Astros from the Elias Sports Bureau.
After the first two Astros reached base against Domingo Germán in the ninth, Chas McCormick hit a two-run double off Chad Green (3-5). Abraham Toro followed with an RBI double to make it 7-5, still with no outs.
Pinch-hitter Jason Castro singled and one out later, Altuve launched his soaring shot to left field. His teammates greeted him at the plate and ripped off his jersey in the celebration, leaving him shirtless as he hugged Baker on his way off the field.
“It was 100% coming off after that home run,” McCormick said of Altuve’s jersey.
Added Baker: “That was the most wonderful thing I’ve seen in years.”
Altuve was not available for a postgame interview. The Astros said his father was in the hospital and he rushed to be with him.
Boone was asked why he didn’t go to slumping closer Aroldis Chapman in the ninth.
“I’m trying to get him into (positive) situations,” he said. “It’s critical we get him back to where we need to be. I want him to pitch those situations where he gets through with a clean outing under his belt.”
Ralph Garza Jr. (1-2) pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings for the win. He allowed three walks on a day the Astros won despite walking a whopping 14 batters.
Maldonado homered in the Houston third off Jameson Taillon, making it 1-all and giving Houston its first run in the series.
Maldonado pulled his jersey down on the left side, revealing his bare chest as he rounded third base.
“It was a little hot,” he said with a smile. “Trying to get some air inside my shirt.”
The move came a day after Judge pulled his jersey together with both hands as he rounded third on a home run. It was a gesture that some interpreted as a reference to Altuve gripping his jersey to keep celebrating teammates from ripping it off after his winning homer in Game 6 of the 2019 AL Championship Series against the Yankees.
After Houston’s sign-stealing scandal was uncovered, some speculated that Altuve didn’t want his jersey pulled off because he was concealing a buzzer that helped in the plot. The allegation was never proven, and Altuve said he did it because he was shy and that he got in trouble with his wife when his jersey was ripped off before.
Altuve was not made available early to discuss Judge’s display, but Baker weighed in on it Sunday.
“I noticed what he did,” Baker said. “That was wrong.”
Sanchez also pulled at his jersey very much like Judge did as he trotted home on his homer. He was greeted at the dugout steps by Rougned Odor, who draped him in a heavy Yankees coat — perhaps a reference to Judge saying he did what he did because it gets “pretty chilly” at Minute Maid Park when the roof is closed.
Boone was in no mood to talk about all the back and forth between the players after the loss.
“I really don’t have any interest,” he said. “We coughed up a 7-2 lead. I don’t think it had anything to do with the extra stuff people are talking about.”
Pirates 6, Mets 5
NEW YORK — Wilmer Difo’s tiebreaking single in the ninth inning capped Pittsburgh’s rally from an early five-run deficit to beat New York.
The NL East-leading Mets jumped out to a 5-0 lead against Chase De Jong in the first on a two-run homer by Francisco Lindor and a three-run shot by Michael Conforto.
Rodolfo Castro and Michael Perez hit back-to-back homers in the fifth. Castro hit a two-run homer in the sixth.
In the ninth, Edwin Diaz (3-3) gave up an RBI single to John Nogowski, and Difo followed with his run-scoring hit down the third base line.
David Bednar (2-1) allowed two hits in a scoreless eighth. Richard Rodriguez worked around a leadoff single by Brandon Nimmo in the ninth to earn his 12th save.
Marlins 7, Braves 4
MIAMI — Pablo López set a major league record by striking out the first nine batters to start a game, pitching Miami past Atlanta.
The 25-year-old López (5-5) broke the mark of eight straight strikeouts to begin a game set by Jim Deshaies in 1986 and matched by Jacob deGrom in 2014 and German Marquez in 2018.
López threw 30 of his first 35 pitches for strikes.
Jesus Aguilar hit a three-run homer in the first inning off Ian Anderson (5-5) as the Marlins ended a three-game losing streak. Jesus Sanchez tripled, doubled and singled and Miguel Rojas had three hits for Miami.
Reds 3, Brewers 1
MILWAUKEE — Nick Castellanos hit a tiebreaking two-run single off All-Star closer Josh Hader with two outs in the ninth inning, and Cincinnati beat Milwaukee.
The Reds took three of four in the series to pull within four games of the NL Central-leading Brewers.
Hader (3-2) came in to pitch the ninth after he surrendered a game-winning homer to Eugenio Suárez on Saturday night. He hit Suárez on Sunday, and Kyle Farmer followed with a pinch-hit single.
After a strikeout, Hader walked Jonathan India to load the bases before Castellanos laced a hit up the middle.
Ryan Hendrix (5-1), the fourth of five Reds relievers, got two outs for the win. Josh Osich worked a perfect ninth for his first career save in his 246th appearance.
White Sox 7, Orioles 5
BALTIMORE — Adam Engel hit a three-run homer in the 10th inning and Chicago completed a season sweep of Baltimore.
Andrew Vaughn homered twice for the White Sox, who have won five in a row and 10 of 13 overall. Chicago leads the AL Central by eight games over Cleveland.
The White Sox went 7-0 against Baltimore this season.
Pinch-hitter Trey Mancini’s two-out, two-homer run in the Orioles ninth off Chicago closer Liam Hendriks (4-2) made it 4-all.
Yoán Moncada led off the Chicago 10th with a walk to join automatic runner Tim Anderson on base. Tyler Wells (2-1) retired the next two batters, but Engel went deep to left-center to make it 7-4.
Matt Foster recorded two outs for his first career save.
Phillies 5, Red Sox 4
BOSTON — Ronald Torreyes hit a three-run homer and Philadelphia used six pitchers to beat Boston.
The Phillies turned to the bullpen after losing scheduled starter Aaron Nola to COVID-19 contact tracing.
Torreyes had three of Philadelphia’s six hits.
Cristopher Sánchez (1-0) got the win after taking over in the second inning, and Ranger Suárez finished it, striking out two in the ninth to earn his second save.
Philadelphia scored five runs, four earned, off Nick Pivetta (7-4), who worked four innings against the team that traded him to Boston last summer.
Blue Jays 3, Rays 1
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Danny Jansen homered, Robbie Ray took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and Toronto ended Tampa Bay’s six-game winning streak.
The left-hander’s bid ended with one out when Yandy Díaz was awarded a double after a fan reached over the left-field fence and tried to catch his drive. Ray (7-4) allowed one hit and one walk, while striking out 11 in seven innings.
Jordan Romano gave up Brandon Lowe’s solo homer and a single to Díaz before getting his seventh save.
Rich Hill (6-4) gave up three runs and four hits in five innings.
Athletics 4, Rangers 1
ARLINGTON, Texas — Matt Olson hit two of Oakland’s four homers and Chris Bassitt allowed one run in seven innings in a win over Texas.
Jed Lowrie and Sean Murphy hit back-to-back homers in the second inning for the A’s, who won consecutive games for the first time since mid-June and took two of three at Texas.
Bassitt (10-2) gave up four hits, struck out three and walked one. Lou Trivino stranded two runners in the ninth inning for his 14th save in 16 opportunities.
Kolby Allard (2-6) allowed all four homers, striking out three and walking none.
Twins 12, Tigers 9,
MINNESOTA — Jorge Polanco hit a game-ending three-run homer in the 10th inning, and Minnesota completed a four-game sweep of Detroit.
Polanco hit a full-count pitch from Derek Holland (1-2) to left field for his 12th homer of the season. Polanco had three hits and five RBIs, while Alex Kiriloff and Max Kepler each had two hits and drove in two runs
Catcher Jake Rogers had given the Tigers a 9-8 lead with a grand slam in the top of the ninth, but Twins catcher Ben Rortvedt tied it with a solo shot in the bottom half. Akil Baddoo homered and drove in three runs for the Tigers.
Tyler Duffey (1-2) pitched a scoreless 10th for the win. Gregory Soto (4-2) took the loss.
Giants 3, Nationals 1
SAN FRANCISCO — Kevin Gausman worked six-plus innings of one-run ball and Curt Casali hit a three-run homer as San Francisco completed a three-game sweep of Washington.
San Francisco heads into the All-Star break with the best record in the majors at 57-32.
Gausman (9-3 struck out nine and held Washington to four hits. Erick Fedde (4-6) took the loss.
LOS ANGELES — Max Muncy slugged a three-run, walk-off homer in the ninth inning, rallying Los Angeles past Arizona.
The Dodgers tied the game at 4 with three runs in the eighth, then scored more to complete the comeback a day after their historic 22-1 win over the D-backs.
Kenley Jansen (1-2) pitched the ninth for the win.
J.B. Bukauskas (1-2) took the loss. Arizona got home runs from Stephen Vogt and Daulton Varsho.
Rockies 3, Padres 1
SAN DIEGO — Pinch-hitter Chris Owings hit a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning, Jon Gray had another strong start and Colorado beat San Diego, which lost another starting pitcher to injury.
The Rockies won in Bud Black’s 2,000th career game as a manager.
Owings’ homer off Craig Stammen (3-2) made a winner of Gray (6-6), who held the Padres to one run and three hits in six innings, struck out seven and walked three.
Jhoulys Chacín pitched two perfect innings and Daniel Bard pitched the ninth for his fourth straight save and 14th overall.
The Padres lost rookie left-hander Ryan Weathers to an apparent knee injury in the third inning.
Angels 7, Mariners 1
SEATTLE — David Fletcher had four hits and four RBIs to extend his hitting streak to 24 games, and Los Angeles beat Seattle.
Fletcher homered in the third inning, drove in two runs with a single in the fifth and added another RBI in the seventh to snap the Angels’ two-game losing streak. The second baseman finished 4 for 5.
Shohei Ohtani went 2 for 4 with a double and a walk .
José Suarez (4-2) allowed three hits over five innings to end Seattle’s three-game winning streak. He struck out four and allowed an unearned run on Ty France’s first-inning sacrifice fly. Raisel Iglesias picked up his 19th save.
Yohan Ramirez (0-1), one of seven Seattle pitchers in a bullpen game, took the loss.
Fletcher’s hitting streak is the longest in the majors since 2019, when the New York Mets’ Wilson Ramos hit safely in 26 straight.